The Dodgers blew it again in the playoffs gifting the St. Louis cards with a take-home 1-3 series. This time it was star pitcher Kershaw who owned the melt down: he gave away a 6-1 lead in game 1 and a 2-0 lead in the 7th inning of game 4. The figthing red birds gratefully grabbed the offer en route to the world series.
Now, Kershaw is perhaps the best regular-season pitcher today. So, play along with my metaphor here: I see a pitcher like a top screenwriter, a master storyteller with a job: to take home a concept, a strategy, and in the end win. In baseball it’s the won game, in scriptwriting a finished, imaginative, killer story. (Sold, yeah.)
Kershaw in 2014 playoffs wrote some great beginnings, rock’n’roll first acts, then lost his plot points in act 3. The Dodgers jumped to early leads and coasted forward evenly. This is what good writers have learned to do, by apprenticeship and instinct: set up the game-story and control it, directly, by pitching strikes and outs, and indirectly by inspiring your teammates to asphalt their opponents with talent. But what about highs and lows? What about action?
Kershaw looked like William Goldman in the first 6 innings of both game 1 and 4: solid presence, perfect timing and ahead of the opposition. You trust a good writer like Goldman to take you on an adventure, like you trust Hitchock to serve a juicy finale no matter how cheap the McGuffin. But a “won game” has to actually be won, like in chess. A winning idea for a script has to be developed until it’s done and over. And it pays off.
Instead, the Dodgers seemed to wait lazily hoping to avoid disturbing plot complications. These horrors, in the form of home-runs, errors and comebacks, hurt. The more you are ahead, the darker the chance that forces of antagonism will team up to pull you down.
Kershaw may have to pitch his way out of a reputation as a choker, by winning “won games” that count. Lost games may be paradoxically easier to win, as concentration is less likely to slip away and a pitcher gets max support from his cast. But winning the “won games” is the ultimate test of patience, character, skillful. A subtle creeping danger haunted our pitcher-writer choice by choice, action by action, pitch after pitch, surfing the good story, gliding upwards towards a clear & happy climax, nothing to fear.
But our defeated storyteller Kershaw may have fallen into that exact trap of ignoring fear, coasting to a shortcut to the win. He even arm-wrestled opponents with a hasty greed for overpowering show-and-tell fastballs… Oops, gone. So little regard for the dark disasters that lurk within an unfinished opus.
Clayton: in those fierce do-or-die moments (which will come again) focus your heart on your inner scoreboard, the one that ultimately matters. Fear is defeat. Keep your story burning.